NIS America recently released Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories on PSN as one of their PS2 Classics. Having played only a little bit of the first game, this was the first time I really sat down and tried to complete one of the games in this series. I own the other games in the series but have never played them, telling off myself for my huge backlog. I can now say that this is one of the deepest and most thoughtful strategy games I have ever seen. There are ton of aspects to this one, so let’s go ahead and dive right into it.
About fifteen years ago, a powerful overlord named Zenon conquered the world of Veldime. He cursed the human population of the world so that they might slowly turn into demons. However, one young boy named Adell was unaffected by the curse and remained human. Adell wants to seek out Zenon and break the curse placed upon his family by defeating him. His mother, a powerful summoner, tries to summon the overlord for her son. She fails, and instead summons his daughter Rozalin. Adell then set out on a quest to return Rozalin to her father and face the overlord to break the curse and save his family.
The game is divided up into 13 chapters, with about four or five battles in each chapter. The story plays out in cutscenes that happen either before or after battles. I have to say the overall story is pretty interesting and will keep you entertained throughout the many, many hours you will sink into this title. As always, the NIS America translation is top-notch—quirky, funny, and just a blast to read. I laughed out loud at some of the item descriptions. For example, the description for Chloroform is “Mama said knock you out!” Don’t ever change, NISA.
The graphics may not be the best or the greatest that the PS2 has to offer, but they are very colorful and fit the game really good. The character sprites are well represented on the screen, each character and monster looking as wonderful as the last. Even the emulation of the game on the PS3 hardware works pretty well. The opening movie has a few skipping issues, but everything else, from the battle animations to the over-the-top special moves, is silky smooth.
The sound effects and the music for Cursed Memories are good, as well. The battle tunes will get kind of repetitive, since you will hear them over and over again, but they are pretty good to listen to. The sound effects are well done, from the grunts of the characters climbing up onto higher ledges to the hacks and slashes of weapons; everything is in working order. The game is fully dubbed in English, as well, and the voice work is really quite pleasing. The Japanese audio has also been made available for those who would prefer subs to dubs.
Now, on to gameplay. At first glance, this game looks like a very simple grid-based strategy game, but in reality, it is very deep. The game will start you off in a small town—think of this as the world hub. From here, you can access the shops, the Item Worlder, the hospital, the Dark Assembly, the Post Officer, as well as the Dimension Guide, who will take you to the main story levels. The game will give you a couple of tutorial maps to start off with to show you how some of the basic battle system works.
The first thing you will notice is that you dispatch your character onto the map from the base panel. This is the big, blue, round glowing space. Much like other games of this type, you will move your character along maps on a grid. You have the basic commands, such as Attack, Special, and Defend. When each command is selected, it will show you the effective range for each different attack or the movement range of the character. You will issue all the commands you wish your characters to perform that round, and then select Execute. The characters will perform all the actions you specified. Special attacks and spells will consume a bit of SP, so you will want to be mindful of this as you use your skills.
If two friendly units are touching each other and you attack an enemy, you get a chance for a combo attack. Your units will combine forces for a good damage bonus. These attacks can include up to three units in one combo, but you will still be able to attack with the other two units in this turn, as the combo only counts for the unit that initiated it.
You can also lift and throw characters. This will come in handy for several different things. If your magic user is just out of range to hit the enemy with a spell, you can throw the character a couple of panels up to get them in range. You can lift your enemies, as well; this comes in handy if they are standing on a panel that is giving them a great bonus. You can also throw two enemy units on top of each other; if you do this, the units will combine levels to become one stronger unit—great for level grinding.
Another thing you can do is just simply lift a friendly character and not throw them. This is called a tower attack. I didn’t use this very much in my playthrough, but I gather you can get some interesting effects this way. You can lift and move Geo Symbols this way, as well. At the end of each battle, you will be given bonuses based on how much damage and how big of a chain you have caused during the battle.
Another very interesting detail about the battle system is the Geo Panels and how they react to Geo Symbols. These different-colored panels can be either your best friend in a battle or the bane of your very soul. Every different color on the map can have a different effect, and these effects vary from you getting 50% more exp for a kill to the enemy getting a 50% boost. The effects are controlled by Geo Symbols, little pyramid-shaped icons scattered about the map. Whenever a Geo Symbol is placed on a Geo Panel, every panel of that color will have the effect the Geo Symbol gives it. If a Geo Symbol is giving a field effect that is making your day a living nightmare, you can always destroy it.
Here is the catch: the Geo Symbols themselves are colored. If the symbol is a different color than the square it is placed on, this will ignite a chain effect, damaging every character or monster on that color panel. If you destroy more than one symbol this way, it will cause an even bigger chain and get you a bigger bonus at the end of the battle. This will add lots of thought and strategy to certain maps, as they can be a bit of a puzzle to figure out.
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